Being a drinker and being a writer means you’re going to attract more than your share of deranged and damaged people. Even if you’re not sober, and you don’t know you’re a writer yet, the Universe feels an obligation to fulfill your weirdness quota. “Freak Magnet” is what I’ve been called more than once in my life, and looking back, I knew I was running into more than my share of madness. I wish I had started writing earlier in life, and I wish I had drank less. I could have written down more, remembered more, but then again, maybe being drunk all the time draws that sort of person in.
Her name was Angel Akin Collins, and there isn’t a way to tell this story without using her real name, because it explains Akin more than anything else. Her parents were truly and weirdly religious, and thought their baby girl was akin to an angel, so they name her Angel Akin. Most people, especially girls I suppose, would have gone with their first name rather than the middle, but she liked Akin as a name, and so that was who she became after she left home. Her parents, of course, did call her Angel, but that was as far as it went if they thought the name might govern behavior. Akin was a poet, which as a class of artists will draw more weirdness to them than writers. Back to her parents, Akin’s mother died young from a serious alcohol habit, her father left one day to get some cigarettes and never came back. At seven years old, she lived alone for the better part of a month before anyone discovered what had happened. Akin was twenty when I met her, and she still thought that month was the happiest she had ever been. Her mother used to talk to Akin’s grandmother on the phone, even though her grandmother had been dead for decades. Akin grew up believing the telephone connected to the grave, and phones still creeped her out as an adult, such as she was. Her father raised her for a year or so on his own, treating her somewhere between a prized pet and a stuffed doll. He never really connected with her in any meaningful way, and when he left, she knew he wasn’t coming back.
Akin was a talker. Words spilled out of her like blood from a gunshot wound. I was a year younger than she, and I thought she was the most fascinating person I had ever met. This was during the time I thought being able to get drunk every day, openly, was the epitome of manhood, and I thought being in a relationship meant you slept and drank with the same person for more than a weekend. Life was a lot more simple back then, and long range planning meant having enough beer to last the rest of the night.
Akin was one of the few people I knew who read for pleasure. She had read “The Hobbit” and loved it because she was short and rather round. She was a redhead, and she thought if she tried hard enough she could get the hair on her toes to grow out bushy but it never happened. Akin thought wishing hard enough, or thinking hard enough about something would make it happen, but there were so many thing she wished for that never came close to happening. She really wanted to be a poet, but most of the people she knew thought her work was truly boring and stupid, but I liked it. Sometimes she was more like a hallmark card than most hallmark cards, but sometimes she could nail down a poem that stuck.
What poets do is capture tiny moments, seconds sometimes, less than that if they’re good, and they take their own lives and they meld the two so closely you look at that one second, or hear it, yet it’s so wrapped up in a life, you then begin to feel it too. Akin wrote a poem about a poem written on a piece of paper that flew down a street, finally lost to everyone because it landed in a ditch full of water, and faded out unread, but I thought it was incredible.
“Read it to me, Akin” I would say when we were smoking pot.
“You’ve heard it a billion billion times.” She would laugh, and I knew she loved being asked to read a poem, her poem, out poem, and she wouldn’t get up to find it, not as if she hadn’t memorized it by then.
“I’ll take you to the beach, and get you stoned, or I’ll leave right now, and you’ll be alone.” I had to make up some stupid rhyme or she wouldn’t read it, or if the thyme was something too stupid she would read it and leave out the inflection in the wrong places, ruining it, so I had to play along.
Akin was raped by one of her husband’s friends one night while he was at work. Her husband walked into the aftermath, thought Akin was cheating on him, beat the guy up, and she thought he was there to rescue her, but then he beat her up, too. Someone called the cops and because her husband told them she was sleeping with the guy she wound up getting the hell beat out of twice and raped in one night. I had no idea if that story was true, because Akin told me a lot of stories I didn’t believe, but she didn’t like phones and she was a little spooked when it came to sex sometimes. She and I stayed in touch with one another for a long time, and one day she called me to tell me it was malignant, and she was going to miss me.